The Big D


This post is for my friend Kim. Kim and I met when we both worked at a Mom & Pop video store in high school. Actually, we probably knew each other before that from girls camp and church stuff, but my real memories of her start at The Video Store. Making special batches of movie theater popcorn with more salt and “butter” on it than God ever intended. (Yeah, that’s right, “butter” is in quotes for a reason. It was yellow and it tasted like butter but when you dig it out of a 5-gallon can with an ice cream scoop, you start to question.) Eating way too many Grandma’s Sugar cookies than a single liver should have to handle. Eating spicy fries with copious amounts of fry sauce from Sconecutter at 12:00 AM. (OK, seriously Kim, it’s a miracle that we don’t weigh like 500 pounds. No?) Turning up our favorite movies really loud and fast forwarding them to THE BEST KISSING SCENES OF ALL TIME (Winner: Some Kind of Wonderful.) Having bunches of friends over at The Video Store and staying late and watching movies on the big screen in the back. One time we got caught trying to sneak into her Mom and Dad’s house after curfew and her Dad opened up the front door and TOTALLY yelled at us. It was simultaneously frightening and hilarious all at the same time.

Kim is lovely inside and out. She is smart and creative. She has gorgeous, well-rounded children. I moved away and then she moved away but she has always made it a point to stay in touch. She has, and has always had, the most perfect hair color. She and Piero are the only two people in the world that love a Chai Tea Latte as much as I do. I wanted them to meet at my wedding, but alas, she was in Dallas looking for houses because her fabulous husband just got a big promotion and they had one weekend to find a place to live. Sniff!

Which brings me to the real point of this post: DALLAS!! The Big D!! Oh, how I love Dallas. If I could transplant all of the people in my life to Dallas and move back there I totally would. It’s a city that is built around eating, shopping and entertainment. In other words, it’s totally a city for me. The first words out of someone’s mouth when they hear Dallas usually go something like this: “Ugh, Dallas is UGLY. And FLAT.” This statement usually comes from someone whose only experience with Dallas is flying in for a business meeting and staying at an airport hotel. I personally think Dallas is a beautiful place. Soft green rolling hills. Wide sweeping meadows. Warm weather. The prairie. Beautiful skies that can go from blue to purple to black in a matter of minutes. It’s gorgeous.

If you are going to visit Dallas or going to live in Dallas, here are my favorite favorite places, in order of their appearance in my mind:

Sonny Bryan’s BBQ (Go to the original location if you can. They stop serving when they run out of meat – which is totally random based on the day.)

Rudy’s BBQ (Notice how there is a gas station, but no one is getting gas. Also, you will soon learn the difference between ‘grilling’ and ‘BBQ.’)

    The Shops at Legacy
    (We lived in Frisco, so this was our nearest shopping/dining area, but many of these places have locations in different parts of town – in Park Cities/McKinney Ave./West Village, Etc. Also note that people in Dallas get WAY more dressed up for an afternoon/night out than you may be used to.) 

    • Village Burger Bar (The burgers here ARE good, but I never managed to move past the Baby Blue salad, which is TO DIE FOR.)
    • Potbelly Sandwiches (Love the veggie sandwich here)
    • Jasper’s (Do not pass go, do not collect $200, have some blue cheese potato chips to start and then get the Ribs. Oh.My.God.)
    • Cafe Express (We probably ate here 12 times a week. Alright, that’s probably an exaggeration, but not much. The chicken salad sandwich was my favorite.)
    • Fireside Pies (The first time we went there we had the Fireside Cheese Salad and the Triple Roni Pizza and I never looked back. It’s pretty much the perfect meal.)
    • Taco Diner (Sometimes I think that if I was on death row my last meal would be a burger, but come to think of it, Taco Diner would be up there. Share the brisket tacos and then order the Los Cabos salad. There is nothing like it at any other Mexican restaurant you’ve ever been to.)

    Oh, and the Angelika Theater at Legacy and The Magnolia Theater in West Village are THE BEST places to see art/indy films.

    SAM MOON. YOU MUST GO HERE. DO NOT BRING CHILDREN. DO NOT BRING HUSBAND. (Because, well, they’ll just hold you back.)

    Highland Park Village
    Awesome, Awesome shopping. For some reason, this is the location of my favorite Anthropologie store. It looks like Who’s Who Burgers is closed, but they had the BEST veggie burger ever. Oh well, there’s still Ralph Lauren and Rugby and Tory Burch. Houston’s is nearby (warm lime chicken salad anyone??). Also, don’t miss Sprinkles Cupcakes.

    More Shopping:
    Northpark Mall
    Galleria Mall Dallas
    West Village
    Premium Outlets
    I type these four links as if each location isn’t full of tons and tons and tons of great shops and yummy places to eat. There’s really just too much to talk about. Also, West Village is home to my very favorite Starbucks of all time.

    And if you’re looking for just a FABULOUS OVER THE TOP experience – go to the W Hotel. Get some treatments at Bliss Spa. Then have dinner at Craft. Craft at the W in Dallas still currently holds a place in my heart as serving two of the best meals I’ve ever had in my life and still currently holds as the coolest restaurant decor I’ve ever seen. It’s just one of my favorite favorite places. Maybe it’s because I have a mad crush on Tom Colicchio. I don’t know.

    There are also endless steakhouses to be explored. Just make sure to order the creamed corn. It’s not what you remember from childhood. Or maybe it is, except when you were a child you didn’t appreciate it.

    And yes, totally check out the Sixth Floor Museum. The Dallas Museum of Art also hosts great traveling exhibits.

    Oh, and then there are Major League Baseball, Basketball, Football and Soccer games.

    And concerts.

    Also, take note of how many “donut” shops are around. Seriously, they’re EVERYWHERE. Now that I’m watching Breaking Bad I’m sure they’re all fronts for laundering drug money. Who knows, maybe Dallas is also the donut capital of the universe and I totally missed out when I lived there?

    Whew! I’m sure that I’m forgetting something fabulous. But this should give you a good start.

    XOXO,
    — Nat

    P.S. Everyone is Texas is REALLY friendly, until they get behind the wheel of a car.

    P.P.S. The U-Turn lane off of the tollway is the most genius concept ever designed for roadways. Don’t worry, you’ll get used to it. And then for the rest of your life you’ll wonder why this hasn’t caught on everywhere.

    P.P.P.S. If it is going to hail, get your car under cover. For reals.

    Today I Am Grateful For: The Twins

    Alek has an incredible group of friends. I was thinking the other day that if I was stranded at the side of the road and needed some sort of manly assistance and Alek was on shift that there are probably a dozen guys I could call that would come and help me out (other than my Dad of course.)

    As a general rule, Alek’s friends are good, good guys. They are kind, happy, talented, hilarious and always down for whatever. They are just, well, chill.  They are also insanely, extremely, beyond helpful. They are helpful in all the ways that you dread having to be helpful to others, you know? Like they will help you move stuff.

    I hope Alek’s friends all know that they are all welcome in our home anytime, for any reason.

    The Twins have been a fixture in the House of House from the beginning. (In fact, on our first date, Alek parked his motorcycle in their driveway and we stood there talking for hours.) Lately, we have been asking a lot of favors from The Twins and, being the good good guys that they are, they have come through for us over and over again.

    I always have my sights set on these big, hairy projects, projects that really have no hope of getting done without The Twins. The twins have spent more time helping us box, pack, move stuff, organize, build, prep, paint, move more stuff, run errands, organize some more and move even more stuff than any friend probably ever should. And they refuse to take any money for anything unless you tell them that they can’t come and help unless they will let you give them some money or buy them dinner. And even then, they aren’t doing it for the money or the dinner, they’re just doing it because they’re great.

    They always say “that’s just what friends do.”

    In addition to their hard work they are lovely guys. They are sweet and kind. Their Dad passed away when they were young and they take care of their Mom’s house. They built an amazing deck for her this summer.

    They love animals. Jaron took care of Lucy when she had to go in for her eye surgery and I had to go out of town. I would have trusted no one else with that job. This spring they found a bird’s nest in the tree outside their window and made sure that the eggs were protected until they could hatch. I’m not even kidding.

    They garden. They cook. They bake a killer chocolate chip cookie. They are creative. Jaron sculpts and Jason throws pots. This week they collaborated and made us these kick-ass magnets:

    Alek and I do this sign all the time, our wedding stationary was based on it.
    They also made us these kick-ass magnets:

     I thought these were HILARIOUS because of a whole other set of inside jokes between me and Alek, but that is neither here nor there.
    THE POINT IS, The Twins. They have reduced an unbelievable amount of stress in our lives with all of their help. They make our lives easier and better. They take care of us in so many ways. It is comforting to know that they are there and that they love us. I hope they know I love them too.
    I guess that’s just what friends do.

    Today I Am Grateful For: Work, Friends and Work Friends

    I start a new job tomorrow. (I know, right?!) So, things have been a little crazy the last few weeks. Well, they’ve been a lot crazy, but that’s pretty typical.

    Don’t get me wrong, I loved the job I left today. LOVED. Loved the company. Loved the products. Loved my team. Loved my role. Loved the opportunities ahead. The problem is that my new off-the-hook-super-amazing-genius-mentor left to start a digital marketing team and asked me to come and work for him. AND it’s a great company. AND it’s great products. AND it’s a great team. AND I love the role. AND I love the opportunities ahead.

    So I said “Yes, Jerry McGuire, I will grab my goldfish and I will go with you.”

    The job that I left today was the first job I’ve ever had – and I’ve been doing this for 16 years now – where I wasn’t hired by someone that I knew. They found me on LinkedIn. (I know, right?!)

    When I interviewed for the job I knew that I had found a bunch of kindred spirits – people who considered Tony Jaros to be a bit of a demigod, who understood the power of a marketing automation platform, who had not only closed the loop, but always thought there was a better way to get it done, and who had figured out the thing that has eluded tech marketers for a decade: how to prove that we contribute revenue to the business.

    Right after my interview I met my friend Lisa (who I was working with at the time) for lunch and the first words out of her mouth when she saw me were “You’re going to take that job, aren’t you.”

    I didn’t think that I believed in fate, but I really really believe that I was meant to meet all of these people.

    So today, I wanted to say THANK YOU to the team I left today, for everything they taught me about what we do for a living, but more for everything they taught me about life in general:

    • MW taught me the concept of being “Big Timed.”  (This is when you unceremoniously get kicked out of a conference room – which you have legitimately booked – by someone who outranks you or has a bigger entourage.) I fully plan to use this phrase for the rest of my career and may or may not claim it as my own in the future.
    • KS taught me that you can make treats that taste as delicious as they look.
    • My amazing sales guys taught me that with perseverance and infinite patience, you can have incredible results, despite all of the obstacles a huge organization can and will throw at you.
    • JF taught me how to play kick-ball, and RC (a.k.a. “The Death Kicker”) taught me how to compete at it.
    • SS, CS, BBM, BK, DT, SM, MC, and SL taught me how to get up on a wakeboard which is one of the coolest things I’ve ever done. Ever.
    • SH taught me how to grill steak and salmon in mouth-watering new ways and taught me that having a two-day office “grill-off-slash-Bobby-Flay-Style-throw-down” is genius on so many levels.
    • BK, BC, NE, JV, and RH taught me the value of smart, driven interns and that BYU is cranking out some serious talent. (This does not mean, however, that I will ever root for any BYU sports teams.)
    • SM taught me what it takes to succeed at a healthy lifestyle. (I think he’d make a mint with a line of “What Would SM do?” bracelets. Think about it.)
    • SS taught me that you can be beautiful, stylish, wicked smart at what you do, respected by your peers, and have a lovely life at home.
    • MC taught me that a real leader invests in the professional development of his people and taught me how much commitment it takes to create culture on a team.
    • RW taught me that paying attention to the tiniest of details at an event can make a huge huge impact and gave me the most beautiful day of my entire life.
    • SH and SM taught me that it’s important to love your kids, but it’s more important to LIKE them.
    • JF and BB taught me the difference between SHAVE Ice and SHAVED Ice. It’s a big difference. A big, delicious difference.
    • There are 18 of my coworkers that taught me to love myself enough to rock a shiny red spandex bodysuit.

    And last, but not least, Jared Budge taught me there is only one way to live your life: whole-hearted.

    Thank you to SM for finding me and introducing me to all of these incredible people. Thank you to my sales guys for putting up with me this year. And especially, thank you to BM and MC,  my amazing amazing team – they made my job so easy.

    However it was that we met, I am so glad that we did. I am glad for the friendships that we forged, I am so glad that you are in my life.

    And to my new off-the-hook-super-amazing-genius-mentor: THANK YOU for this absolutely incredible opportunity. I am BEYOND excited.

    Today I Am Grateful For: My Uncle LaVor

    Each year I want to remember my Uncle LaVor on Veteran’s Day, but there aren’t really appropriate products on the market to do that. (At least, there aren’t appropriate products that I particularly like. Look, I’m a stationery snob, alright?) This year, I was really inspired by Paper Coterie’s Heroes series. Finally, something on the market that is lovely and appropriate for the occasion. So my Dad arranged with my Auntie Barbara to sneak out all of my Uncle LaVor’s slides from Vietnam. Dad had the slides scanned so that we had hi-res digital files to work from and we chose about 50 to have retouched by the insanely awesome team at Pixels for use on a Paper Coterie Memory Keeper Box, Book and Scallop Cards. Thank you to the Paper Coterie team for creating something that I have been waiting years to find.
     

    I don’t know my Uncle LaVor very well. He owns my Dad’s family’s small dairy farm and works harder than anyone I know. He is still as handsome as he was in these photos. He is a voracious reader and incredibly smart. He has a dry wit and a sarcastic sense of humor. He has built an observatory on the hill behind his house and I am dying to go there and see the stars from the valley that was named after them.

    I do know that his Vietnam War experience profoundly affected him. So what do you say to someone that you don’t really know very well, but has given up so much for you?

    I think what I want most of all is for my Uncle to know how much my Dad loves him. My Dad is passionate about politics, about history and about current events. He constantly challenges our thinking and our family has a real appreciation for the fact that we live in a free country and can have healthy debate around the dinner table. (Because we do, nearly every Sunday. And yes, I’m the token “liberal.”) My Dad has always made it a priority for us to know about the Vietnam War and to know about my Uncle’s service. And because of this he has infused in all of us a deep respect for what it means to be a Veteran and what Veterans mean to all of us, every day.

    My Uncle is the reason that I care about the Vietnam War. That I have learned so much about it, have tried to understand it, and will never forget it. My Uncle is the reason that I watch the news and listen to NPR in the morning. He is the reason that I care about what is going on in the world. My Uncle is the reason that I vote (and I would be utterly ashamed if I didn’t.) He is the reason that I care deeply about Veteran’s affairs and issues.

    I don’t think it is any coincidence that Veteran’s Day falls during the month where we give Thanks. So I guess what you say to someone that you don’t really know very well, but has given up so much for you is this:

    Thank You.

    Stuff I am CA-RAZY About

    I am demanding that Alek be a “Man of Leisure” during his off time this winter and a couple of weeks ago he brought home this beauty:

    Apple TV is most definitely something every Man of Leisure needs. I love this thing. It’s pretty enough to sit outside of our TV console thingy, it was insanely easy to hook up, it streams all of our music, photos, Netflix, and a bazillion Internet radio stations. It was only $99. Oh, and there is a new app that just streams movie trailers. Love!

    I’m sure that everyone out there with an Apple TV is thinking: “Um, yeah. Where the hell have you been?”

    Moving on.

    When we first discovered Dexter there were many nights spent running around to every Red Box / Video Store / Friend’s House / Best Buy / whatever to get our hands on DVDs. So, I was pretty stoked to start watching Breaking Bad on our shiny new Apple TV.

    Mom has been a Breaking Bad evangelist for a while, and last time Alek was on shift I watched the pilot. This.show.is.awesome. I knew Alek would love it so when he got home I told him he should relax and watch the pilot before he took a nap, and yada yada yada, he didn’t take a nap. And yada yada yada, we haven’t been in bed before 1:00 AM in the last week and a half. I am CRAZY about this show. CRAZY!! I can’t stop thinking about it. I can’t stop talking about it.

    If you aren’t watching Breaking Bad, here’s the premise: an over-qualified 50-year old high school chemistry teacher with a 16-year old son with cerebral palsy and a surprise baby on the way is diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. So to insure his family has some money after he dies he hooks up with a former student slash junkie and cooks up the purest most amazing crystal meth ever. Oh, and since deep down these two guys are nice, normal people with nice, normal problems, they pretty much suck at the drug game. Oh, and did I mention that his brother in law works for the DEA? Shit hits the fan, hell breaks loose. All of the characters have so many layers and are so different then they seem on the surface and did I mention I am CRAZY about this show?

    I’m sure that everyone out there watching Breaking Bad on a regular basis is thinking: “Um, yeah. Where the hell have you been?”

    Moving on.

     
    All of this brings me to a new song that I am CA-RAZY about: DLZ by TV On The Radio. It’s loud and quiet and desperate and angry and powerful and sad all at the same time.

    I bet you can guess where I first heard this lovely.

    I told you.

    CRAZY.

    Today I Am Grateful For: Poets

    Today I had lunch with a friend and we were talking about love and how happy we were that we had felt real love, even though it requires you to be vulnerable. And sometimes it hurts. And sometimes it hurts a lot. We both agreed that we would take the risk of being vulnerable and feeling pain any day over wandering the earth, comfortably numb for a lifetime. 

    For some reason our conversation reminded me of this poem. It describes perfectly that all-consuming love and the small moments in time that are utterly and completely transformational.

    I have had the indescribable moment that this poem so perfectly describes.  I’ve been the woman in the plaid Bermuda shorts, sleeveless blouse, glasses, little gold hoop earrings, tilting my head up.

    Today I am grateful for poets.

    Gate C22
    — by Ellen Bass
     
    At gate C22 in the Portland airport
    a man in a broad-band leather hat kissed
    a woman arriving from Orange County.
    They kissed and kissed and kissed. Long after
    the other passengers clicked the handles of their carry-ons
    and wheeled briskly toward short-term parking,
    the couple stood there, arms wrapped around each other
    like he’d just staggered off the boat at Ellis Island,
    like she’d been released at last from ICU, snapped
    out of a coma, survived bone cancer, made it down
    from Annapurna in only the clothes she was wearing.

    Neither of them was young. His beard was gray.
    She carried a few extra pounds you could imagine
    her saying she had to lose. But they kissed lavish
    kisses like the ocean in the early morning,
    the way it gathers and swells, sucking
    each rock under, swallowing it
    again and again. We were all watching–
    passengers waiting for the delayed flight
    to San Jose, the stewardesses, the pilots,
    the aproned woman icing Cinnabons, the man selling
    sunglasses. We couldn’t look away. We could
    taste the kisses crushed in our mouths.

    But the best part was his face. When he drew back
    and looked at her, his smile soft with wonder, almost
    as though he were a mother still open from giving birth,
    as your mother must have looked at you, no matter
    what happened after–if she beat you or left you or
    you’re lonely now–you once lay there, the vernix
    not yet wiped off, and someone gazed at you
    as if you were the first sunrise seen from the Earth.
    The whole wing of the airport hushed,
    all of us trying to slip into that woman’s middle-aged body,
    her plaid Bermuda shorts, sleeveless blouse, glasses,
    little gold hoop earrings, tilting our heads up.

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